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« About $22 Billion In Gold, Diamonds, Jewels Found In Indian Temple | Main | The Art of Physics, or should it be The Physics of Art ? (Sujatha) »

July 07, 2011


I tried Vandiyadevan, the hero (and real historical figure) in a 1940s Tamil historical epic "Ponniyin Selvan", and it gave up. But it did ask me to add the name and ID to the database, so I now wonder what happens with the next person who uses the same character

I stumped it with Anthony Braxton. The first three guesses were Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, and Keith Jarrett. (Coincidentally, during the last couple evenings I have listened to recordings of the latter two, so the machine is on to something.) After admitting defeat, it prompted with additional names: Ornette Coleman, Wayne Shorter, Wynton Marsalis (musician), and Young Dro [who?!]. Now Braxton is and has been well known in certain circles for a long time, and there is a huge amount of information about him online. The Akinator got close with Ornette...but no cigar.

Speaking of Wynton Marsalis (who does not need a parenthetical qualification specifying his professional identity!), when we were in Sacramento last month for our daughter's baptism, we strolled early one morning to the cathedral with the godparents and a friend through a neighborhood near the downtown location of the cathedral. Two men were strolling in the opposite direction on the same sidewalk. As they approached, I glanced at one of our group and remarked, "That's him." It was Wynton and a friend. Wish I'd said something. He had performed the night before in Grass Valley.

Finally, here's what Akinator reported prior to play: "2289 people are currently playing (Max=1800), 90976578 games played 248327 today." Some debugging may be in order.

After I posted it, I went ahead and played some more. It surprised me with correctly guessing Jhansi ki Rani and Cynthia Ann Parker with about a dozen questions each and not so remarkably Sharmila Tagore and Rekha, two well known Indian movie stars, in even fewer steps.

Wish I'd said something.
Why didn't you? You don't come across as the tongue tied type :-)

Why didn't you? You don't come across as the tongue tied type :-)

Sometimes I am, sometimes not. One reason on this occasion, however, was that the recognition took a moment. My thought process: "This guy looks familiar...Marsalis...Branford? No, Wynton!" Had he been toting a trumpet (alternatively, a saxophone), I'd have known right away. And of course the usual real life disorientation occurred. Wynton is much shorter and stockier than his album covers reveal.

Yet I had something to say to him. He's a famously outspoken proponent of a very narrow definition of what counts as jazz. But I don't care. Some of his work is just marvelous, beautiful, even daring. I would have kissed-up a bit.

Oh Mercy I need to stay away until a few menacing deadlines have been blown some other way than this!

The game is nuts. It figured out Anthony Weiner--Anthonys on the brain today--but only after asking 16 questions, a bunch of which were just silly, e.g., "Is your character [sic] a democrat [sic, l.c.] in his country?," "Is your character linked with sex?" I guess I answered correctly in the affirmative to both of those.

My favorite is "Has your character killed humans?"

My physicist cousin tells me that people like this may be who design such games.

I'm not sure what characteristics of Prof. Girvan are shared by others who design these games. Academics? Physicists? Relative youth? Females? I know a video game designer. He's half a generation younger than me and a successful playwright. Another friend employed in the programming of games and game-like social networking applications is a full generation my junior with a strong pre-med undergraduate degree and a taste for the photographic arts.

The game brings to my mind the variety of AI and so-called expert systems the ceaselessly misguided geniuses of the '80s and '90s were toying with. It's a crude (and much more fun) instance, but it tries to purvey the same astonishing cleverness. The difference now, I suppose, is that the data are readily available and digitally legible, and processing power combined with new algorithms for identifying patterns among the pools of data are better suited than twenty years ago to permit a kind of post-coordination of those patterns.

A bit of analog nosing around turns up the source of this game. It appears to be a fledgling web application development company in...sitting down?...Chartres! And just as I mused above, what kinds of talents are they seeking? Programmers avec "Notions d'Algorithmique et d'intelligence artificielle, ... " How many questions did I have to ask to figure this out? Not telling.

Dean, you (and Sujatha) never cease to amaze me by your ability to dig into the morass of the "Internets" and come up with the answers. I guess I misrepresented what my cousin said about the likes of Prof. Girvan (I notice that I am getting sloppier in my communication skills as days go by). He meant that she would be qualified to "explain" the algorithms of the Akinator.

I won with Suhrawardy.

But he got Marilyn Monroe in 17steps and George VI in 8steps.

Apparently, it relies on a growing database fed by millions of guessers. I find it hard to believe that nobody would have tried Stanley Ann Dunham, but it couldn't recognize her.

And without her and her unassuming parents, Obama probably wouldn't be president today.

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